In 2008, Mustard Seed Fair Trade Inc. (a nonprofit 501c3) was started by a group of young women in Columbia. Their mission was to sell fairly traded products that provided safe employment for people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it.
Eight years later, this same organization has changed its name to focus its mission and inspire our community to change the world through purchasing.
“We want so much for each customer that walks in our door to understand that their purchase is keeping young women out of sex trafficking, or saving a child from back breaking labor, or preventing a death in dangerous working conditions. Real hope, real change is happening abroad because of what we are doing here in Columbia,” says Christina Weaver, one of the organization’s founders and current board chair.
In the last year, Mustard Seed Fair Trade Inc. has become Route Inc. There weren’t any organizational or leadership changes but a very real change in brand identity. This change came after months of discussion and difficult consideration.
The board and employees questioned whether “Mustard Seed Fair Trade” was effectively communicating the work that was being done. The decision was unanimous that it was not, and the process began that changed the look and the language of the organization.
Now the marketing is focused on the origin of their products, the path that the products take to get to the shop and the customer. They describe each product as “ethically produced” instead of “fairly traded”. This means that a maker who is paid fair wages makes each piece in safe working conditions.
Each stop on the product’s “route” creates relationships. These relationships, if chosen carefully, can create much needed change. “Extending empathy in the form of pursuing social justice and recognizing the need for change in production practices must extend to what we purchase and who it effects, if we have any hope of seeing an end to the human trafficking, slavery and dangerous working conditions that affect over 50 million individuals around the world,” Weaver says.
The organization has found the name and branding change to be a much more difficult process than expected. The original “Mustard Seed Fair Trade” brand and image is one that so many in Columbia were familiar with.
Their hope is that as they improve their ability to communicate the stories of change that customers create through their purchase that the Route brand will be one people are excited about and that more people will consider purchasing ethically, from Route, whenever they can.
Read the article in the Columbia Missourian here.